Miri Regev Leaves Ophir Awards to Protest Reading of Darwish Poem

Far-right Minister of Culture Miri Regev (Likud) walked out of the Ophir Awards ceremony on Thursday, September 22, to protest the reading of a poem by the late Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. “I left in the middle of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish at the Ophir Awards,” Regev wrote on her Facebook page. ”I have a lot of respect and patience for the other, but I feel no patience for Darwish”.

A scene from the award-winning Israeli film Sand Storm

A scene from the award-winning Israeli film Sand Storm

Dubbed the “Israeli Oscars,” the Ophir Award ceremony is organized by the academy to recognize excellence in the local film industry. Tamer Nafar and his collaborator Yossi Tzabari, during whose appearance at the ceremonies the poem by Darwish was read, had previously accused the academy of attempting to censor their inclusion of a Darwish poem at the Ophir ceremony held in Ashdod.

In Thursday evening’s Ophir Awards Ceremony, the Arabic-language drama about a Bedouin family Sand Storm won six awards, including those for best supporting actress (Ruba Blal-Asfour), best director (Elite Zexer), and the all-important best film award.

Following Zexer’s win at the First Look Work-In-Progress Competition in Locarno last year, Sand Storm had its official world premiere at January’s Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic section. The film’s critical acclaim continued at such festival circuit stops as the Berlinale and TIFF, with Kino Lorber picking up North American rights in June. Sand Storm, which was released last week in Israel, will be released in the United States this Wednesday at the New York Film Forum and be distributed nationwide during the coming weeks. Sand Storm will also be Israel’s 49th submission for the Oscar award for the best foreign-language film. Over the years, 10 Israeli films have earned an Oscar nomination, the most recent being Joseph Cedar’s Footnote in 2012.